12/30/2011

Did Romney adopt his pro-abortion views because of polls?

From the Daily Caller:

During his unsuccessful run against Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994, Mitt Romney decided that he would run on a pro-choice platform after being advised that a pro-life candidate could not win in liberal Massachusetts.

The revelation comes from a new book, “Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics,” by journalist Ronald Scott. Journalist Byron York reported on Scott’s disclosure in an article published Friday in The Washington Examiner. . . .

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Real wages falling

People leaving the work force, real wages falling. If people think that they are having a hard time getting by, it isn't their imagination. Things don't look very good here. Why aren't these numbers getting more attention? So much for economic growth.

Here are the real (constant 1982-1984 dollars) earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls, seasonally adjusted

Real average hourly earnings Nov. 2010 $10.38 Nov. 2011 $10.22
Real average weekly earnings Nov. 2010 $355.04 Nov. 2011 $350.68


Here are the real (constant 1982-1984 dollars) earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls, seasonally adjusted.

Real average hourly earnings Nov. 2010 $8.94 Nov. 2011 $8.75
Real average weekly earnings Nov. 2010 $299.46 Nov. 2011 $293.93

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Art Laffer endorses Newt Gingrich

If you liked George W. Bush on taxes, vote for Romney, who has basically recycled Bush's team of economic advisors. If you want to make America competitive on taxes, Laffer is right about Newt. From today's WSJ's Political Diary:

Newt Gingrich, who has been sliding in the polls in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses next week, won an enthusiastic endorsement Thursday from iconic supply-side economist Arthur Laffer.

"I think if Newt is president, you are going to see economic growth beyond what you have ever seen," said Mr. Laffer during a campaign appearance with the former House speaker in Storm Lake, Iowa. Mr. Laffer, an adviser to President Reagan, said that Mr. Gingrich understands "Reagan economics . . . the economics we did in the 1980s."

"This man does understand, fundamentally and deeply, that if you tax people who work, and you pay people who don't work, don't be surprised if you find a lot of people not working," said Mr. Laffer. "I have never heard of a poor person spending himself or herself to prosperity. It doesn't work." . . .

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Why young people are not approving of Obama's job as president

This article would be a lot more useful if it compared the 2008 numbers with those for today. It is good to see that Obama has so much time to do twice the number of fundraisers as Bush. From CNN:

The sobering reality: just 55.3 percent of Americans between 16 and 29 have jobs. And earlier this year, Americans’ student loan debt surpassed credit card debt for the first time ever.
Rather than develop a lasting initiative to help young unemployed Americans, the President launched “Greater Together” – a campaign tool that offers community forums rather than jobs. Rather than provide a bailout to those crushed by the burden of educational loans, his student debt relief program was pathetic – only reducing interest rates by a measly 0.5 percent.
No wonder less than half of Americans 18-29 approve of Obama.
It’s no surprise the President is ignoring millenials. They’re too poor to donate to his campaign this election cycle. Older Americans are 47 times richer than the young – a striking generational gap in prosperity that has widened from a 10 to 1 ratio when Ronald Reagan was running for reelection in 1984. At the same time, Obama is ringing up donations from older voters. In the first 10 months of 2011, he attended 58 fundraisers – twice the number President George W. Bush attended during the comparable period before his reelection. That’s overkill when the GOP candidate is still TBD. . . .

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Obama as "recluse"?

The Obama that I knew was not someone who enjoyed talking to those with whom he disagreed, but it appears as if he might not agree with talking to others either. Is part of this an attempt by the New York Times and others to make it look like he is an outsider at a time when people are upset with Washington? That is my guess. But the other way of looking at this is that Obama just likes to talk with his inner circle.

Mr. Obama, in general, does not go out of his way to play the glad-handing, ego-stroking presidential role. While he does sometimes offer a ride on Air Force One to a senator or member of Congress, more often than not, he keeps Congress and official Washington at arm’s length, spending his down time with a small — and shrinking — inner circle of aides and old friends.

He typically golfs with a trio of mid- to low-level staff members little known outside the West Wing. He does not spend much time at Camp David, the retreat other presidents have used to woo Washington. His social life runs toward evenings playing Taboo with old friends and their families, Wii video games with his wife and daughters or basketball with Robert Wolf, a banker and the rare new best friend Mr. Obama has acquired since entering politics. He vacations with friends from Chicago on Martha’s Vineyard in August and in Hawaii at Christmas.

This week, for example, Mr. Obama is ensconced in the protective bubble of the Secret Service. With him are his closest outside-the-Beltway-friends, including Eric Whitaker, a Chicago doctor, and two of Mr. Obama’s Hawaii friends from Punahou School: Mike Ramos, a businessman, and Robert Titcomb, a commercial fisherman whom Mr. Obama has stuck by despite his arrest in April on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute. Mr. Obama bolted from Washington last Friday barely an hour after he had signed legislation extending the payroll tax cut after a grinding fight with House Republicans whose result is widely viewed as a big win for him. His relationship with Washington insiders is described by members of both parties as “remote,” “distant” and “perfunctory.” . . .

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Democrats voter registration deficit among new voters

"D.C. Ordered to Pay $1M in Historic Gun Case"

Alan Gottlieb was asking for $3.1 million, but it is nice to see that they got some of their costs covered.  It is too bad that Alan Gura and others aren't getting more compensation for their hard work.  From Fox News:

The District of Columbia has been ordered to pay more than $1 million in attorneys' fees as a result of a historic gun case that was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dick Heller sued the city in 2003 over its ban on handgun ownership and the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ban in June 2008, saying it violated the Second Amendment.
A federal judge on Thursday issued an opinion awarding Heller's attorneys $1,137,072.27 in fees and expenses. The attorneys had argued they should be awarded $3.1 million. Attorneys for the city said the figure should be closer to $840,000.
A spokesman for the D.C. Office of the Attorney General said city lawyers were studying the opinion. A telephone message left for Heller's lead lawyer, Alan Gura, wasn't immediately returned. The judge's opinion awards Gura approximately $662,000 for more than 1,500 hours of work on the case, paying him at a rate of $420 per hour. Five other members of Heller's team are also compensated. . . .

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12/29/2011

Why reciprocity for concealed carry would be beneficial

This poor woman didn't understand the laws, but she was trying to do the right thing. How can NYC go for such a high penalty against someone who sought out the police? This woman will be listed as someone who lost her ability to carry concealed because of a felony with a gun. From the New York Post:

A tourist from Tennessee waltzed into one of the most secure sites in the city — and politely asked a cop if she could check her weapon.
Instead, she was dragged out in cuffs.
Now, Meredith Graves, 39, is facing at least three years in prison for thinking New York’s gun laws are anything like those in the Bible Belt.
Graves, a fourth-year medical student, showed up at the memorial on Dec. 22 to pay her respects during a trip north for a job interview.
She didn’t realize that the loaded .32-caliber pistol in her purse would be a problem until she saw a sign at the site that read, “No guns allowed,” sources said.
“She remembered she had the gun on her,” a source said. She walked up to a security guard and said, “I have this gun. Where can I check it?”
The guard told her that she was in luck because of “law enforcement day” — and led her to another area.
When she got to that section, she asked another cop, “We have this gun — can we check it in here? We [my husband and I] are not law-enforcement.”
That’s when she was arrested.
Graves, who has a full legal carry permit in Tennessee, was locked up on a weapons-possession charge and held on $2,000 bond that she posted yesterday. She is due in court on March 19.
She’ll soon find out exactly how serious New York City is about illegal guns. The Manhattan DA’s Office is pursuing a conviction on felony gun possession — carrying a minimum sentence of 3 1/2 years. . . .

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Another broken promise by Obama

From Jonathan Turley:

While many predicted it, Obama has now again betrayed the civil liberties community ... Americans will now be subject to indefinite detention without trial in federal courts in a measure supported by both Democrats and Republicans. It is a curious way to celebrate the 220th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. This leaves Ron Paul as the only candidate in the presidential campaign fighting the bill and generally advocating civil liberties as a rallying point for his campaign. . . .

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12/28/2011

New Fox News piece: President Obama's Anti-Gun Agenda Shows No Sign of Stopping

My newest piece starts this way:

President Obama keeps pushing for gun control. "I just want you to know that we are working on [gun control]. We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar,” President Obama told Sarah Brady, the former president of the Brady Campaign, this past spring.
His push as been quiet but relentless.
Just this past week Obama signaled that he was going to just ignore two new parts of the 2012 Omnibus Spending bill. Although he signed the spending bill into law, he simultaneously issued a so-called "signing statement," a note that presidents have started attaching to legislation stating how they interpret the law they are signing or whether they believe part of it is unconstitutional.
Obama’s statement claimed that Congress couldn’t put restrictions on how he wanted to spend to fund lobbying for gun control and the National Institute of Health studies of gun control.
But why should the federal government use taxpayer dollars to pay for lobbying? . . . .



Four days later it is still the most read piece.

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"'Unbelievable' rise in weapons permits"?

The Des Moines Register has this:

The number of Iowans seeking permits to carry handguns and other weapons has increased 170 percent during the first 11 months of 2011 — a trend one Iowa sheriff calls “unbelievable.”

During the first year in which a new law gave sheriffs less discretion over which residents can be denied permits, 94,516 Iowans sought and received non-professional weapons permits from January through November, the Iowa Department of Public Safety reports.

Data from the state’s three most populous counties show an even greater surge in weapons permits in key urban areas. In Polk, Linn and Scott counties, the number of permits issued thus far in 2011 is 271 percent higher than in 2010. . . .

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More Women owning guns?

CBS News has an article available here.

More women than ever are picking up rifles, shotguns, and handguns. And target shooting is one of the fastest-growing female sports.

But, looks can be deceiving. We're not talking "Dirty Harriet" here, notes "Early Show" contributor Katrina Szish.

Female participation in target shooting in the U.S. has nearly doubled in the last decade, growing to nearly five million women since 2001. . . .

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"Gun sales at record levels"?

There are A LOT of problems with using these background checks to proxy for gun sales. For example, states are regularly using NICS checks to determine if permit holders have gotten into any problems. As the number of permits rise, background checks soar. For example, Kentucky runs these checks monthly. The two days before Christmas is probably a better indicator. From CNN:

December holiday shoppers were not just interested in buying the hottest electronics and toys -- they also were purchasing record numbers of guns, according to the latest FBI figures on background checks required to buy firearms.
With a few days left in December, the FBI reports the number of background checks has already topped the previous one-month record -- set only in November -- of 1,534,414 inquiries by gun dealers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System also known as NICS. Almost half a million checks were done in just the last six days before Christmas.
Two days before Christmas, NICS ran 102,222 background checks, which was the second-busiest day in history. The one-day record was set this year on Black Friday, the big shopping day following Thanksgiving, with 129,166 searches. By comparison, the previous one-day high was set November 28, 2008, when gun dealers made slightly less than 98,000 requests for background searches. . . .


The article doesn't seem to understand the difference between denials and initial denials.

It's not possible to tell exactly how many guns have been purchased because buyers often take home more than one gun. But most people pass the background checks. Only 1.3% of the searches result in people being denied permission to buy a weapon, said FBI spokesman Steve Fischer. . . .

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Person who lost MF Global's $1.2 billion is the financial adviser for the Environmental Protection Agency

From the Fox News:

During two days of recent congressional hearings into how as much as $1.2 billion disappeared from MF Global customer accounts, the chief operating officer of the imploding investment firm responded again and again that he did not know.

Yet as the House and Senate interrogated Bradley I. Abelow and other top executives at MF Global Holdings Ltd., lawmakers did not mention Mr. Abelow’s role as a financial adviser for the Environmental Protection Agency, which as of Tuesday listed him as the chairman of its financial advisory board.

Even as he finds himself the public face of a bankruptcy and admitted to lawmakers that he had no idea how client funds disappeared, Congress and the administration have voiced no public concern about Mr. Abelow’s role advising the $8.6 billion government agency on its finances.

“EPA relying on Wall Street for financial guidance is like the blind leading the blind,” said Jeff Ruch, president of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group based in Washington. . . .

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12/27/2011

Michael Luo of the New York Times on permitting rate to those who should have had their permits revoked in North Carolina

UPDATE: The New York Times apparently doesn't believe that they should interview people whom they are going to attack in their news articles. I actually had an email exchange with Mr. Valone on Thursday where he told me that Valone asked Luo if he had talked to me because of the research that I had done on the law-abiding behavior of permit holders. It was on that point not the general point of concealed carry laws that Valone said that Luo should interview me. From Human Events.
In the article, Luo referred to John Lott, whose statistical crime analysis shows that crime falls when gun ownership increases, but he quickly dismissed Lott’s research as discredited. Valone said when he asked Luo if he had contacted Lott, the reporter told him: “There is no reason to call John Lott.” . . .
Original: From the article:
In about half of the felony convictions, the authorities failed to revoke or suspend the holder’s permit, including for cases of murder, rape and kidnapping. . . . While the figure represents a small percentage of those with permits, more than 200 were convicted of felonies . . . .
I would like to address multiple attacks from Mr. Luo, but the New York Times doesn't let you discuss those points in a public forum like my website here if you want them to publish your letter. So I will limit myself to the above quote. Say that there were 225 felons/2 (half not revoked)/5 years of data = 23. (If it were 250 or more, he would have rounded the number up.) If the number of active permits were 240,000. But 23/240,000 is 0.0096 percent. That is the percent of people who committed felonies annually and who didn't get their permits revoked. If you want to look at over the full five year period it is 0.04 percent. The real question here is how many of that 0.0096 or 0.04 percent committed another crime with a gun while they were supposed to not have a permit. It is interesting that the article never mentions this so I assume that the number was likely zero.

All this of course assumes that Mr. Luo got these numbers correct. I would also like to know a lot more about these felonies. There are other issues that I have with Mr. Luo's results, but this is a first pass. The rate that permit holders are getting in trouble for felonies is 0.019 percent.

In More Guns, Less Crime (p. 246) I show the results from having called up various sheriff's offices in North Carolina.  Their discussion of the types of cases indicated that the crimes committed did not involve the use of a gun.

As to what other research as found, here is a table from the third edition of More Guns, Less Crime. You can buy a copy of the book with its extensive literature review for just $3.42 here.

UPDATE: There are a lot of comments on Mr. Luo's news article. A nice collection is here at Instapundit.

UPDATE 2: See also this.

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Those horrible wealthy people: Seven of the ten wealthiest people in Congress are Democrats

Paul Caron links to this discussion in the Washington Post:

[T]he financial gap between Americans and their representatives in Congress has widened considerably since [1984], according to an analysis of financial disclosures by The Washington Post.
Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House has risen 2.5 times, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, rising from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Over the same period, the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the median sliding from $20,600 to $20,500. ... The growing disparity between the representatives and the represented means that there is a greater distance between the economic experience of Americans and those of lawmakers. . . .


Of course this is somewhat misleading as the price index for the wealth isn't the same as that for lower income individuals (Hint: they buy different things), and once you allow the index to vary you don't see the drop in median earnings and wealth as commonly assumed.

In addition, there is a strong argument to make that the CPI overstates inflation because it doesn't deal with the increasing quality of products. If an Apple iMac is the same as it was five years ago, would we really want to say that the price level has remained constant? Or that the quality of medical care or housing hasn't improved?

Adjusting for inflation the way it is commonly done is misleading.

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So how weak were sales this Christmas season?

This report from Sears doesn't sound very promising.

Sears Holdings Corp. said it expects to close roughly 100 stores in a bid to revitalize its business and reduce expenses, while also reporting continued sales struggles in the latest quarter.

A cautious consumer mood has only compounded headaches for the retailer lately, which has seen sales drift lower as its namesake department stores and the Kmart discount chain lose market share to rivals. For the latest quarter, the company Tuesday reported same-store sales are down 5.2% so far for the period, including a 6% sales decline so far at domestic namestake stores. . . .

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12/26/2011

Republicans propose gradually reducing length of unemployment benefits

Do Democrats have a clue that Republicans are doing them a favor? Reducing the length of benefits will reduce the rate that more people apply for them and hence lower the unemployment rate. Who do you think that it would help to start lowering unemployment during the last six months of 2012? From The Hill:

Levin has been particularly critical of the House Republican proposal to cut benefits by 40 weeks from a maximum of 99 weeks to 59 weeks within six months. The plan — included in the House passed payroll tax bill — called for an immediate 20-week cut in January followed by another 20-week reduction in the summer. . . . .

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12/25/2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

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Obama's view on Free market economies

One has to read Obama's full speech to realize how really bad it is, but here is a taste of it.

“The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes -- especially for the wealthy -- our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the price of liberty.

Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. (Laughter.) But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. (Applause.) It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the ‘50s and ‘60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade. (Applause.) I mean, understand, it’s not as if we haven’t tried this theory. . . .

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Romney is moving to the left even before he captures the Republican nomination

Intrade shows Romney a lock on the Republican nomination so it isn't too surprising that he is already moving leftward. I thought that it might be later, after he had locked up the nomination. But Intrade shows the odds of Romney winning the nomination at 70 percent at the moment. So Romney moves to the left on homosexuals. Now he starts talking about a national value added tax. The contradictions in Romney's proposals are overwhelming. He talks about a flat tax, but he only wants cuts in tax rates for those making less than $200,000. Romney surely seems to want to make it clear that he is not for the wealthy. From the WSJ:

What about his reform principles? Mr. Romney talks only in general terms. "Moving to a consumption-based system is something which is very attractive to me philosophically, but I've not been able to sufficiently model it out to jump on board a consumption-based tax. A flat tax, a true flat tax is also attractive to me. What I like—I mean, I like the simplification of a flat tax. I also like removing the distortion in our tax code for certain classes of investment. And the advantage of a flat tax is getting rid of some of those distortions."

Since Mr. Romney mentioned a consumption tax, would he rule out a value-added tax?

He says he doesn't "like the idea" of layering a VAT onto the current income tax system. But he adds that, philosophically speaking, a VAT might work as a replacement for some part of the tax code, "particularly at the corporate level," as Paul Ryan proposed several years ago. What he doesn't do is rule a VAT out.

Amid such generalities, it's hard not to conclude that the candidate is trying to avoid offering any details that might become a political target. And he all but admits as much. "I happen to also recognize," he says, "that if you go out with a tax proposal which conforms to your philosophy but it hasn't been thoroughly analyzed, vetted, put through models and calculated in detail, that you're gonna get hit by the demagogues in the general election."

That also seems to explain his refusal to propose cuts in individual tax rates, except for people who make less than $200,000, which not coincidentally is also Mr. Obama's threshold for defining "the rich."

"The president will characterize anyone running for office, and me in particular, as just in there to lower taxes for rich people, and that is not my intent," Mr. Romney says. . . .

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